Corporate Social Responsibility Employment Narratives: a Linguistic Analysis

Zhongtian Li, Shamima Haque (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose – This study has two objectives. First, it investigates whether and to what extent ‘linguistic hedging’, an impression management form of linguistic expression that conveys an ambiguous level of commitment, is used in corporate social responsibility (CSR) employment narratives. Second, it explores whether there is any difference in the use of linguistic hedging between written and spoken corporate forms of language. It mobilises these objectives by examining employee-related narratives made by electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers domiciled in Taiwan, in the context of labour malpractice incidents.

Design/methodology/approach – Two groups of data are examined: corporate responsibility reports (written language) and interviews and speeches of corporate founders and senior executives (spoken language). The research sample is ten Taiwanese EMS firms, all of which attracted public criticism and scrutiny due to a series of employee-related incidents. The sample period is between 2009 and 2013. Linguistic hedging is measured quantitatively by the relative word frequency of hedges, using the concordance software ANTCONC, with findings interpreted through the lens of legitimacy theory and impression management.

Findings – The study found that hedging was evident in CSR narratives. The EMS providers in Taiwan appeared to use hedging in employee-related disclosures to manage legitimacy challenges due to employee-related incidents that had happened in their assembly plants. The adjustments in employee-related disclosures made by the EMS firms as a legitimation strategy can be seen as a rhetoric device of impression management or a form of symbolic legitimation to persuade society to restore their legitimacy status. Further, overall hedging was more frequently used in spoken than written language, which suggests that rhetorical hedging in written narratives is more likely to be a deliberate choice of tactics to influence stakeholder perceptions and thereby manage corporate legitimacy.

Originality/value – The study introduces a new analytical technique, linguistic hedging, into the CSR literature. This enriches research methods used in this field, providing more compelling insights into the relationship between the use of language and CSR narratives in the process of corporate legitimation of employee-related practices. This study thus provides a platform for future computational-linguistics studies in the field of CSR.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Apr 2019

Fingerprint

Hedging
Corporate Social Responsibility
Employees
Language
Electronics manufacturing
Impression management
Legitimation
Incidents
Legitimacy
Rhetoric
Taiwan
Service firms
Disclosure
Service provider
Malpractice
Stakeholder influence
Legitimacy theory
Corporate responsibility
Tactics
Design methodology

Keywords

  • narrative analysis
  • linguistics hedging
  • corporate social responsibility
  • employee
  • reporting
  • legitimacy
  • impression management
  • rhetoric

Cite this

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title = "Corporate Social Responsibility Employment Narratives: a Linguistic Analysis",
abstract = "Purpose – This study has two objectives. First, it investigates whether and to what extent ‘linguistic hedging’, an impression management form of linguistic expression that conveys an ambiguous level of commitment, is used in corporate social responsibility (CSR) employment narratives. Second, it explores whether there is any difference in the use of linguistic hedging between written and spoken corporate forms of language. It mobilises these objectives by examining employee-related narratives made by electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers domiciled in Taiwan, in the context of labour malpractice incidents.Design/methodology/approach – Two groups of data are examined: corporate responsibility reports (written language) and interviews and speeches of corporate founders and senior executives (spoken language). The research sample is ten Taiwanese EMS firms, all of which attracted public criticism and scrutiny due to a series of employee-related incidents. The sample period is between 2009 and 2013. Linguistic hedging is measured quantitatively by the relative word frequency of hedges, using the concordance software ANTCONC, with findings interpreted through the lens of legitimacy theory and impression management.Findings – The study found that hedging was evident in CSR narratives. The EMS providers in Taiwan appeared to use hedging in employee-related disclosures to manage legitimacy challenges due to employee-related incidents that had happened in their assembly plants. The adjustments in employee-related disclosures made by the EMS firms as a legitimation strategy can be seen as a rhetoric device of impression management or a form of symbolic legitimation to persuade society to restore their legitimacy status. Further, overall hedging was more frequently used in spoken than written language, which suggests that rhetorical hedging in written narratives is more likely to be a deliberate choice of tactics to influence stakeholder perceptions and thereby manage corporate legitimacy.Originality/value – The study introduces a new analytical technique, linguistic hedging, into the CSR literature. This enriches research methods used in this field, providing more compelling insights into the relationship between the use of language and CSR narratives in the process of corporate legitimation of employee-related practices. This study thus provides a platform for future computational-linguistics studies in the field of CSR.",
keywords = "narrative analysis, linguistics hedging, corporate social responsibility, employee, reporting, legitimacy, impression management, rhetoric",
author = "Zhongtian Li and Shamima Haque",
year = "2019",
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day = "11",
language = "English",
journal = "Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal",
issn = "0951-3574",
publisher = "Emerald Group Publishing Limited",

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AU - Li, Zhongtian

AU - Haque, Shamima

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N2 - Purpose – This study has two objectives. First, it investigates whether and to what extent ‘linguistic hedging’, an impression management form of linguistic expression that conveys an ambiguous level of commitment, is used in corporate social responsibility (CSR) employment narratives. Second, it explores whether there is any difference in the use of linguistic hedging between written and spoken corporate forms of language. It mobilises these objectives by examining employee-related narratives made by electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers domiciled in Taiwan, in the context of labour malpractice incidents.Design/methodology/approach – Two groups of data are examined: corporate responsibility reports (written language) and interviews and speeches of corporate founders and senior executives (spoken language). The research sample is ten Taiwanese EMS firms, all of which attracted public criticism and scrutiny due to a series of employee-related incidents. The sample period is between 2009 and 2013. Linguistic hedging is measured quantitatively by the relative word frequency of hedges, using the concordance software ANTCONC, with findings interpreted through the lens of legitimacy theory and impression management.Findings – The study found that hedging was evident in CSR narratives. The EMS providers in Taiwan appeared to use hedging in employee-related disclosures to manage legitimacy challenges due to employee-related incidents that had happened in their assembly plants. The adjustments in employee-related disclosures made by the EMS firms as a legitimation strategy can be seen as a rhetoric device of impression management or a form of symbolic legitimation to persuade society to restore their legitimacy status. Further, overall hedging was more frequently used in spoken than written language, which suggests that rhetorical hedging in written narratives is more likely to be a deliberate choice of tactics to influence stakeholder perceptions and thereby manage corporate legitimacy.Originality/value – The study introduces a new analytical technique, linguistic hedging, into the CSR literature. This enriches research methods used in this field, providing more compelling insights into the relationship between the use of language and CSR narratives in the process of corporate legitimation of employee-related practices. This study thus provides a platform for future computational-linguistics studies in the field of CSR.

AB - Purpose – This study has two objectives. First, it investigates whether and to what extent ‘linguistic hedging’, an impression management form of linguistic expression that conveys an ambiguous level of commitment, is used in corporate social responsibility (CSR) employment narratives. Second, it explores whether there is any difference in the use of linguistic hedging between written and spoken corporate forms of language. It mobilises these objectives by examining employee-related narratives made by electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers domiciled in Taiwan, in the context of labour malpractice incidents.Design/methodology/approach – Two groups of data are examined: corporate responsibility reports (written language) and interviews and speeches of corporate founders and senior executives (spoken language). The research sample is ten Taiwanese EMS firms, all of which attracted public criticism and scrutiny due to a series of employee-related incidents. The sample period is between 2009 and 2013. Linguistic hedging is measured quantitatively by the relative word frequency of hedges, using the concordance software ANTCONC, with findings interpreted through the lens of legitimacy theory and impression management.Findings – The study found that hedging was evident in CSR narratives. The EMS providers in Taiwan appeared to use hedging in employee-related disclosures to manage legitimacy challenges due to employee-related incidents that had happened in their assembly plants. The adjustments in employee-related disclosures made by the EMS firms as a legitimation strategy can be seen as a rhetoric device of impression management or a form of symbolic legitimation to persuade society to restore their legitimacy status. Further, overall hedging was more frequently used in spoken than written language, which suggests that rhetorical hedging in written narratives is more likely to be a deliberate choice of tactics to influence stakeholder perceptions and thereby manage corporate legitimacy.Originality/value – The study introduces a new analytical technique, linguistic hedging, into the CSR literature. This enriches research methods used in this field, providing more compelling insights into the relationship between the use of language and CSR narratives in the process of corporate legitimation of employee-related practices. This study thus provides a platform for future computational-linguistics studies in the field of CSR.

KW - narrative analysis

KW - linguistics hedging

KW - corporate social responsibility

KW - employee

KW - reporting

KW - legitimacy

KW - impression management

KW - rhetoric

M3 - Article

JO - Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

JF - Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

SN - 0951-3574

ER -